Tag: "financing"

Posted April 1, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

We recently reached out to Princeton, Massachusetts, after reading several local news articles about the city's ambition to improve broadband in the community. Phyllis Booth of the Landmark has been covering the story. Community leaders recently mailed survey cards to every residence in town and put the survey online to provide ample opportunity for feedback.

With survey results complied, the answer from respondents was an overwhelming, "Yes! We want better Internet!" The Princeton Broadband Committee has since made the results available in a series of visuals that express the community's experiences with speed, customer satisfaction, desirable applications, and other respondent concerns. Detailed survey results are available for review [PDF].

The results come as no surprise to Stan Moss, Board of Selectmen Member who is also on the Broadband Committee. "Everybody has tried everything," says Stan when he describes the survey outcome. The community of 3,300 has access to DSL in about 49% of households and other choices are satellite, dial-up, and wireless. According to Moss, Princeton DSL customers averaged a D+. From the Landmark article:

“Once we invest in the fiber it’s pretty good. It’s not costly to upgrade in the future, it’s reliable once it’s in place,” said [Broadband Committee Member John] Kowaleski. “If the town doesn’t do this, no one will,” he added. The town has contacted Verizon and Charter and “we’re not even on their plan,’’ said Kowaleski. “Princeton has insurmountable challenges. It isn’t profitable for Verizon or any other company to provide the infrastructure to give us the service,” said Kowaleski.

Moss says he receives calls on a regular basis from residents who want to know when the city is going to provide FTTH. Most of those calls come from people who work from home or have school age children.

Princeton, Massachusetts Map

K-8 Schools in Princeton currently use slow and unreliable T1...

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Posted March 19, 2013 by Christopher Mitchell

We have long been impressed with Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) in Iowa. They built an incredibly successful municipal cable network that has now been upgraded to a FTTH network. CFU transfers $1.6 million into the town's general fund every year, reminding us that community owned networks often pay far more in taxes than the national cable and telephone companies.

Last week, Moody's Investor Service gave an investor-grade A-3 rating to revenue debt from CFU, another sign of its strong success.

Moody's rating report noted the utility's large market share, competitive pricing and product offerings, expansive fiber optic network, long-term financial planning and conservative budgeting practices as reasons for the continued strong rating of the utility's revenue debt.

CFU also compiles the community savings resulting from each of its services by comparing its rates to nearby communities (see most recent comparison [pdf]). The benefits total $7.7 million each year, almost $500 per family. This includes a $200 difference in cable TV bills and a $130 difference in Internet service.

Posted March 15, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

As we monitored Georgia's HB 282, a bill to limit the capacity of local governments to invest in Internet networks that spur economic development, we learned of many existing networks that have helped communities to thrive.

Brian Thompson, Director of Electric and Telecommunications in Monroe took some time to tell us a little about their city network.  Located in the north central section of Georgia, with a population of 13,000, the network now offers triple play services to residents and businesses. Its network started in the 1970s with a municipal cable tv network. Today, the network is a hybrid with fiber having been added as an expansion to its cable network.

Monroe's investment in its fiber began as a way to improve connections for education. The Walton County School District could not find a private provider willing to collaborate on an affordable network between school facilities. The city took on the challenge and built a point-to-point network which the School District paid for in 10 years. In the mean time, the city expanded its network in other areas. Now, the Walton County Schools have gig service between facilities and to the Internet. The District pays only $500 per month for a service that would cost five times more from a private provider.

Thompson also confirmed what we hear from other communities with publicly owned networks - prices for business and residential services are very competitive and service is superior. He notes that customers often express appreciation for local representatives, rather than dealing with a huge bureaucracy like those at Verizon or AT&T. New connections can be created in a matter of hours or days instead of weeks.

Residential service for Internet access from MonroeAccess.Net includes affordable basic service (1 Mbps / 256 Kbps) for $21.95 per month. Two faster tiers include $34.95 (6 Mbps / 512 Kbps) and $44.95 (15 Mbps / 1 Mbps). Cable tv rates vary from $15.50 to $62.95 per month and residential phone service starts at $29.95 per month. Thompson notes that, when Monroe...

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Posted March 12, 2013 by Christopher Mitchell

Blair Levin is Executive Director of Gig.U. Prior to that, he was in charge of developing the National Broadband Plan and long before that was Chief of Staff for the FCC during the Clinton Presidency. He's had a lot of experience in telecommunications policy but here we focus on what can be done to move America's communities forward.

I asked Blair to join us for the show so I could ask him some hard questions about the Gig.U initiative, including the difficulty of achieving universal service and the tradeoffs around allowing entities not rooted in the community to own (and set the rules for) essential infrastructure. I also challenge Blair's preference for "private sector" investment, asking him what exactly that means.

I hope our discussion is helpful in understanding the tradeoffs communities must make in choosing exactly how to improve Internet access locally. Though Blair and I disagree in some ways, I think we clearly illuminate why we disagree so the listener can make up his/her own mind.

If you have some questions left unanswered or points you wish were made, note them in the comments below and we'll ask him to join us again.

Read the transcript from our discussion here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 35 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to D. Charles Speer & the...

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Posted March 7, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

Carl Junction, Missouri, is moving ahead with plans to build a fiber network.

Steve Lawver, City Administrator, tells us that funding for the $5.2 - $5.6 million project will most likely come through a lease program from the Missouri Public Utility Alliance (MPUA). Lawver tells us that funding will involve private placement non-taxable bonds, available to members of MPUA.

The network, which will be entirely fiber to the premises, will serve local government, schools, businesses, and residents. In an email, Lawver notes that:

We, as many rural communities, have found that the incumbent providers that are serving us have no plans for the improvement or expansion of their system here in our city.  With little else to do we decided to build it ourselves and find a service provider that is responsive and customer oriented.

The City began pursuing the network some time ago. Last September, TSI Global presented information at a City Council meeting after completing 75% of a feasibility study. In a Joplin Globe article, Andra Bryan Stefanoni described data they gathered on available service in the Carl Junction area:

Mediacom users can download data at 20 megabits per second and upload at 2 megabits per second for $30 a month. AT&T users can download at 6 megabits per second and upload at 1 megabit per second for $20 a month. Zing fixed wireless users can download 3 megabits per second and upload at 1.5 megabits per second for $99 a month.

At that same September meeting, Stefanoni noted that residents commented on the project. While not all of the comments favored pursuing broadband infrastructure investment, most of the speakers at that meeting commented on poor choices:

Resident Josh Hoover told the council he depends on a reliable Internet connection because he works from home.

“My Internet access is very shaky, to say the least,” Hoover said. “It has made me consider at times moving out of Carl Junction.”

Mayor Mike Moss, who works at Missouri Southern State University, said he hears complaints from MSSU teachers, as well as employees of Leggett & Platt, TAMKO Building Products,...

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Posted March 6, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

New Hamsphire FastRoads is making significant strides in connecting residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions in the southwestern section of the state. FastRoads is funded by a combination of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants, private donations, and funds from local communities.

While the network is certainly making progress and scheduled for completion this summer, it has been constrained by state laws that limit the use of bonding. As a result, many local communities that would like to benefit from connections with Fast Roads will not able to take advantage of its presence in this largely rural area of the state.

We recently spoke with Carole Monroe, Executive Director of New Hampshire Fast Roads, in a Broadband Bits podcast interview. She told us about a bill in the New Hampshire General Court this year that would remove restrictions that limit how local governments can finance network investments.

In past years, New Hampshire legislators took up several bills that would remove the restriction preventing local communities from using bonds to finance broadband infrastructure. Every year, lobbyists from large ISPs manage to push those bills into oblivion. This year, HB 286 seeks to strike the restrictive language.

The bill is getting attention from local media, the New Hampshire SentinelSource. An editorial, published soon after the bill was introduced summarizes the problem:

In areas where companies determine that investing in expansion isn’t worthwhile, municipalities often find their hands tied because state law does not allow communities to take out municipal bonds for broadband access if there’s a private company operating in the community. That means if a town has even a small pocket of coverage by a telecommunication company, it can’t get funding to pay for expansion to the rest of its residents and businesses.

The...

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Posted February 7, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

We enjoy bringing you news from western rural Massachusetts and the WiredWest Cooperative. We want to share the update on 2012 activities and some of the plans for 2013.

Sixteen new towns became members in 2012, which brings the grand total to 42. Business planning progressed during 2012. From the WiredWest newletter:

Significant work was undertaken in 2012 to enable financing and buildout of the network. That work was made possible by grants from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Central Berkshire Fund, in addition to support from donations, Cooperative membership fees, and thousands of volunteer hours.

The group also conducted a market survey in member towns. WiredWest confimed that demand is strong in the region. The organization is using the information to determine what services to offer and to support pro-forma financial statements, developed with help from groups that know the ins and outs of community broadband:

WiredWest has created comprehensive pro-forma financial statements with input from other municipal fiber networks and appropriate financial expertise. The leadership team has met with a number of public and private financing sources and advisers to refine our financing strategy and put the project on track for financing in 2013.

WiredWest also commenced a Support Card Campaign in its member towns. Potential customers, commercial and residential, shared their support and the results will help with network design. The campaign will provide potential funders evidence of interest in future network services. Residents and businesses can still complete a Support Card and are...

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Posted February 4, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

Franklin, Kentucky expects to see more positive economic growth when it launches its new fiber optic network. According to an article in the Bowling Green Daily News, the south central community is ready for the upgrade:

“We are super excited about it,” said James McCaslin, associate vice president of academic affairs and director of Franklin-Simpson Center. “It will be like going from 1970 to 2013 with the flip of a switch.”

We contacted Tammie Carey, Fiber Services Manager for Franklin Municipal FiberNET, and she was good enough to answer some questions. She told us that 32 miles of aerial fiber are strung in three loops around the city to ensure redundancy. She expects the network to launch near the end of January for local businesses, though the utility has already been serving one business as detailed below.

The decision was based solely on a desire to boost economic development, a sentiment echoed in the Daily News article:

It’s hard to recruit industry now if you don’t have (fiber optics),” said Dennis Griffin, industrial recruiter for Simpson County. “A lot of industries, particularly in this area, are satellite plants connected to their corporate offices, somewhere else in the United States. They all need to be connected by fiber.

“So if you don’t have that, it’s hard to compete with communities that do,” Griffin said. “Ten years ago, you could get by with T-1 lines – now most industries are just expecting that you have fiber."

Apparently, City officials contacted AT&T and Comcast several years ago and asked them to install fiber to the Franklin industrial parks. When they refused, City Leaders began pondering the possibility of a municipal fiber network. Tammie tells us about the decision in an email:

It was economic based.  Our Industrial Authority was working with several industries regarding possibly locating in our community.  A need they had was large amounts of reliable bandwidth.  The existing companies would not build fiber to the industrial park locations.  The city saw this as a major hindrance with our economic development recruitment and made the decision to invest in a system....

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Posted January 19, 2013 by

Even as the Internet is changing every aspect of our lives and communities, most Americans are intimidated by confusing jargon and misconceptions about Internet policy. We are developing a series of fact sheets that make these issues understandable to everyone.

We presently have fact sheets from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and other organizations that cover broadband, financing networks, wireless Internet, economic development benefits from community owned networks, and the public savings from community owned networks.

Stay up to date with these fact sheets and other developments in community owned networks, subscribe to our one-email-per-week list. Once a week, we send out an update with new stories and resources.

Exploring Digital Equity

Expanding Internet access to everyone who wants it isn’t an infrastructure problem alone. Achieving equity for everyone in a community is a many-sided endeavor, and requires engaging and activating an array of stakeholders. Created with support from AARP, ILSR’s Exploring Digital Equity Fact Sheet Series unpacks the issues, challenges, and opportunities today.

What is Broadband? [pdf]

Broadband Access Challenges [pdf]

Broadband Affordability Challenges [pdf]

Broadband Availability Challenges [pdf]

...

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Posted January 11, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

Cottage Grove, Oregon, is on the cusp of adding up to 250 new jobs with the aid of its fiber optic network.  A recent Register-Guard.com article by Serena Markstrom details the potential project between the City and First Call Resolution. The company is interested in expanding to a Cottage Grove shopping strip. While the space is the right size and location, it does not have the needed telecommunications connections for a high-capacity call center.

The City is looking into expanding its fiber optic network to accommodate First Call. City leaders will seek a state economic development grant and recently approved funding for an engineer's construction plan to lay the cable to get an accurate cost estimate. Initial estimates are $450,000 for an entire underground installation. Council members have already suggested that the expansion makes sense, regardless of whether or not First Call becomes a tenant. The 7 miles of fiber are primarily located in the southern part of the city while the shopping strip is in the north.

The City Manager Richard Meyers hopes the added infrastructure will bring more than just First Call Resolution to the shopping strip. From the article:

The commercial strip being considered for the call center has much empty space. “The whole plaza needs help,” Meyers said. “We need to do something to see if we can get other things in there.”

If more businesses moved in and started leasing the cable, the city could collect money — just like any utility — from those who tapped into the network and use those funds to continue to expand fiber optic cable around town, Meyers said.

“With our fiber and what we’ve developed, we’re within 4,000 feet of connecting” to the Village Center, he said. “That’s how close we are,” he said. “It’s not a huge distance. We can do it. (It would be a) piece of cake to connect our system to his network and so all of [First Call Resolution's] call centers would be on the same network.”

The city network also offers a Wi-Fi network throughout 80% of the city. Rates vary, ranging from 10 free hours each month at 128 Kbps to 7 Mbps unlimited with tech support for $50 per month. According to the CGWiFi website:

...

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